U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Washington, D.C. 20420
The Pledge of Allegiance
Thirty-one words which affirm the values and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.
freedom that the American flag represents are recited The words “my flag” were replaced by “the flag
while facing the flag as a pledge of Americans’ of the United States” in 1923, because some foreign-
loyalty to their country. The Pledge of Allegiance born people might have in mind the flag of the
was written for the 400th anniversary, in 1892, of the country of their birth, instead of the U.S. flag. A year
discovery of America. A national committee of later, “of America” was added after “United States.”
educators and civic leaders planned a public-school No form of the pledge received official recognition by
celebration of Columbus Day to center around the Congress until June 22, 1942, when it was formally
flag. Included with the script for ceremonies that included in the U.S. Flag Code. The official name of
would culminate in raising of the flag was the pledge. The Pledge of Allegiance was adopted in 1945. The
So it was in October 1892 Columbus Day programs last change in language came on Flag Day 1954,
that school children across the country first recited when Congress passed a law which added the words
the Pledge of Allegiance this way: “under God” after “one nation.”
Originally, the pledge was said with the hand in
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the so-called “Bellamy Salute,” with the hand resting
to the Republic for which it stands: first outward from the chest, then the arm extending
one Nation indivisible, with Liberty out from the body. Once Hitler came to power in
and Justice for all. Europe, some Americans were concerned that this
position of the arm and hand resembled the salute
Controversy continues over whether the author rendered by the Nazi military. In 1942, Congress
was the chairman of the committee, Francis Bellamy established the current practice of rendering the
— who worked on a magazine for young people that pledge with the right hand placed flat over the heart.
published the pledge — or James Upham, who Section 7 of the Federal Flag Code states that
worked for the publishing firm that produced the when not in military uniform, men should remove any
magazine. The pledge was published anonymously headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left
in the magazine and was not copyrighted. shoulder, thereby resting the hand over the heart.
According to some accounts of Bellamy as People in military uniform should remain silent, face
author, he decided to write a pledge of allegiance, the flag and render the military salute.
rather than a salute, because it was a stronger expres- The Flag Code specifies that any future changes
sion of loyalty — something particularly significant to the pledge would have to be with the consent of the
even 27 years after the Civil War ended. “One president.
Nation indivisible” referred to the outcome of the The Pledge of Allegiance now reads:
Civil War, and “Liberty and Justice for all” expressed
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation
under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.